Updates to this story
Google, the company that has been spotted having talks with the CIA but is not evil and definitely has no agenda, and definitely does not have armed patrols around HQ in GoogleWagons, is starting to invest in relatively cheap-as-chips Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs).
Wiwo.de reports that the manufacturer of the UAVs, called Microdrones, has confirmed it's been sending kit out to Google HQ. Boss Sven Juerss has said he reckons Google and his company have a great opportunity to go into long lasting business.
Probably. Google has a squeaky clean image in the public eye even AFTER its street view SNAFU. The UAVs being flogged are mini helicopters with cameras attached that can be flown about all over the place. They're quiet and resemble sci-fi UFOs for the vertically challenged alien.
They can fly up to 80km per hour, so Microdrone CEO Sven Juerss suggests they'll be brilliant for mapping entire neighbourhoods really quickly and relatively cheaply.
Even before Google started data mining on open web networks its Street View operations were controversial, with Google Maps picking up on people who didn't exactly want their faces plastered all over the internet. With the kind of high-angle aerial shots this sort of kit can achieve, it boggles the mind as to the sort of images that may be accidentally captured.
Civilian UAVs tend to be stealthy and quiet and can reach great heights. They are able to record high definition video as well as take snapshots and can be used for live streams. Surveillance teams, police forces and militaries the world over are trialling civilian UAVs - but these are government sanctioned, not a privately owned company that already has a data monopoly.